Jack Seddon tops off landmark appearance with try in away win for Cleckheaton
Cleckheaton RUFC began 2022 the way they left off in 2021 as they came away with winning points from a strong display at Morpeth in North One East.
A 31-17 victory kept the Moorenders in touch with the leading teams in the division and they are right in the mix now, just five points behind leaders Driffield and four behind second-placed Old Brodleians.
They are level on points with Ilkley and the two teams are set to meet at Moorend this Saturday in a clash that could go a long way to determining which of these teams can go on to challenge the top two.
After ending last year with three straight victories Cleckheaton were determined to keep the run going when they travelled to the north east to play opponents who themselves are enjoying a decent season in seventh position.
They were tested, but produced one of their best defensive displays of the season to ensure another win.
It was a day to remember for Jack Seddon as he celebrated his 150th first XV appearance with an excellent performance, capped off with a try.
Cleckheaton did make a sluggish start as they looked to be struggling to shake off the two-and-a-half hour bus trip to Morpeth and conceded the first try in the first 90 seconds.
The home team’s try was a wake-up call, however, and Cleckheaton eased their way into the contest to assert more and more control.
They were back in it after six minutes when a break by Mike Hayward gave them good field position and after a couple of forward drives Dom Brambani fed man of the match centre Tom Hainsworth, who broke through an attempted tackle to race over. Brambani added the conversion to put the visitors ahead.
It was more about defensive prowess from Cleck in the next 25 minutes with Matt Piper, Hainsworth and Dom Flanagan putting in some big shots to hold the home team at bay.
Back rowers Seddon, Joe Flanagan and Richard Piper were in the thick of the action too with some fine cover tackling.
Morpeth had the advantage of an extra man when Joe Flanagan was yellow-carded for a high tackle, but they were still unable to breach the Cleck line.
Cleckheaton’s line-out functioned excellently on the day with Archie Rika-Rayne finding Barnard, Seddon or Josh Plunkett on every occasion while fast hands and an accurate boot from Ollie Depledge and Brambani respectively meant the home side were regularly sent back to their own half to build again.
When restored to full strength, Cleckheaton went on the attack and were rewarded with their second try.
After hard drives from Andy Piper and Niall Jackson put Morpeth under pressure Josh Plunkett made the breakthrough following a sublime inside pass from Richard Piper and a deft offload found the supporting Brambani, who touched down under the sticks for a try he converted to make it 14-5 at half-time.
The good work continued into the second half as Seddon made a break and the ball was moved one way then the other before Seddon completed the move he started by diving over in the corner. Brambani added an equally excellent touchline conversion and the visitors appeared to be in control now at 21-5.
They proceeded to gift wrap a try to Morpeth, however, as an interception try kept the game alive. Another interception almost brought about another home score, but Jack Marshall chased back to make a try-saving tackle.
Order was restored and Cleckheaton put the game to bed when Hayward outpaced the defence for a bonus point try and his 13th of the season.
Brambani maintained his perfect record with the boot and shortly after landed a penalty to make it 31-12 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Morpeth did score a late try, but it was a mere consolation after Cleckheaton ensured their winning start to 2022.
They will now be looking to maintain the attitude they showed in this game for the remainder of the season. Having set a defensive benchmark, repeat showings will make them hard to score against.
The new defensive strength now faces an instant test against an Ilkley side that has been in the top three all season.